No. 15 Miami is looking to keep its recent hot streak going and stay unbeaten at home when it hosts Wake Forest on Saturday afternoon in Coral Gables, Fla.
The Hurricanes (21-5, 12-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) have won five in a row and have the second-longest active winning streak in the conference behind current leader Pitt, which has won six in a row.
Miami entered the week projected as a No. 5 seed by ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi, but a strong finish through a challenging final stretch of four games, plus a strong showing in the ACC tournament next month, could vault them higher.
For now, Miami coach Jim Larranaga is only concerned about the numbers his team can control — wins and losses.
“There’s one stat I like a lot,” Larranaga said following the team’s win at North Carolina on Monday. “I don’t know if you guys have seen it. But it was true on the weekend — now (other) teams have won or lost. In the last 37 games, if you look at all of the best records of the teams in the ACC in ACC competition, we have got the best record of any team in the league in the last 37 games. We are 27-10, and that is the best record over like the last two years-plus.”
Two big reasons for the Hurricanes’ success, coming off a program-best season last year when they advanced to their first Elite Eight, are the play of Nijel Pack and Jordan Miller.
“Jordan with 24 points and 11 rebounds. The guy is great,” Larranaga said. “And Nijel Pack with 23 (points). I have said this over and over again: I think (Miller) is the most underrated player in the country, because the amount of things he does well on the court makes him a very hard matchup for anybody.”
Wake Forest (17-9, 9-6) is also on a roll entering the game, having won three in a row following a damaging four-game skid that left the Demon Deacons on the NCAA Tournament bubble and battling in the middle of the pack in the ACC standings.
A victory over Miami could bolster Wake Forest’s resume as it is 76th in the NET rankings as of Thursday.
“I don’t think anybody really understands how (NET) works,” Wake Forest assistant coach Brooks Savage said in the ACC’s weekly teleconference. “I think it’s probably designed that way.”
Wake Forest’s Tyree Appleby is coming off terrific performances in wins against Georgia Tech and North Carolina, which earned him ACC Player of the Week honors.
Appleby, who transferred to the Deacons from Florida, averaged 25.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 8.5 assists and 1.5 steals over the past two games. He scored a season-high 35 points and had 11 assists and seven rebounds against North Carolina, setting ACC records for free throws made (23) and free throws attempted (28) in a game.
Appleby, who is leading Wake Forest with 18.6 points and 6.2 assists per game, then scored 16 points and had six assists in a 71-70 win over Georgia Tech.
“We did not want to lose that game at all, because of our tournament chances,” Appleby said after the Georgia Tech game. “That’s a big win and there’s no such thing as a bad win — so we’ll take it.”
–Field Level Media